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Film for thought

Cinema Politica UW Chapter founders from left to right: senior Annie Holden, alumna Cassie Hoeprich, senior Jon Yourzak, senior Jordan Cameron. Photo by Alex Ho

Cassie Hoeprich recalls the exact day on which she decided that she was going to found the Seattle chapter of international, nonprofit organization Cinema Politica.

Hoeprich was studying abroad with her friend Annie Holden in Berlin last fall and was shown the film “Examined Life” by the organization.

“Examined Life” features eight contemporary philosophers walking the streets of New York City and other metropolis regions and talking about applying their ideas to modern times. However, it was nothing about the glitz and glamor of the Manhattan skyline that struck Hoeprich and Holden.

“It was in a room a lot like this,” Hoeprich, a UW alumna, said, gesturing to the small room of Cafe Allegro where we were sitting. “It was so cool because there were all sorts of different people there: young people, old people, people speaking English, Spanish, French, a ton of different languages. Annie and I realized that we hadn’t stumbled upon something like this in our time abroad and we thought it was really cool.”

The experience in the Neukölln café was enough to strike Hoeprich and Holden’s curiosity about Cinema Politica, the group responsible for the “Examined Life” screening. Cinema Politica is a nonprofit organization based in Montreal, Canada, which shows alternative, independent, and radical political documentaries made by artists all over the world. The mantra of the organization is to show these movies “not only to entertain but to engage, inform, inspire, and provoke social change.”

Because it is a nonprofit organization, it relies entirely on the volunteers affiliated with the various chapters across the world to continue functioning. After receiving a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts, Cinema Politica was able to provide free access to the films that it chooses to show.

“I had such a great experience with it in Berlin,” Holden, a current UW student, said. “I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of and I wanted to bring it here to Seattle.”

Upon their return to the United States, Hoeprich and Holden were surprised to find that the only U.S. chapter of Cinema Politica existed in Cape Cod, Mass., established by the roommate of the original founder. This makes the Seattle chapter the first in the nation to be started completely independently.

Less than a week after Hoeprich and Holden’s time in Berlin ended, they started the Seattle chapter.

“We basically started calling all of our friends and asking them, ‘Do you want to do this?’” Hoeprich said. “Two of our friends, Jon [Yourzak] and Jordan [Cameron], signed on, and we pretty much started planning the first screening right away.”

The four friends then had to figure out how to get their fledgling chapter off the ground.

“We had to decide ‘What’s our mission?’ and ‘Why is this important?’” Hoeprich said, “because we didn’t really want to start something new in Seattle and be a part of all the other million things happening in the city.”

From there, the quartet went and sought advice from mentors at the UW and the community about their main issues: money, which films should be shown, and who should come and speak after the screenings. Speaking of money, most of it “came from a kegger party that we had,” Yourzak said with a laugh.

Finding a space that was accessible to all individuals, something that Hoeprich stressed, proved to be tougher than the group originally thought, but a connection that Holden had through the Vera Project at the Seattle Center provided the group with the venue they needed.

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Audience members watch “Marx Reloaded”at Cinema Politica Seattle’s first screening.

“The Vera Project has been so helpful for what we’re trying to do,” Hoeprich said. “They really try to include everyone and they have even ended up sponsoring us.”

Apart from showing films to raise awareness about public issues, Hoeprich says the free space it provides for people is something that can’t be found anywhere else.

“Being in that cafe and listening to people talk about the film made us realize that, which you don’t think about as a student, you have classrooms to talk about things like this,” Hoeprich said. “But if you aren’t in school and just live your day to day life, you have to go and find that opportunity to go and talk. Unless there’s a specific topic, there isn’t anywhere like a classroom setting.”

The group held its first screening last night at the Vera Project, featuring the film “Marx Reloaded,” directed by Jason Barker. The movie focuses on the ideas of German socialist Karl Marx and applying his ideas to today’s modern society. Twenty-five people attended the screening and afterward the four Cinema Politica members facilitated a discussion pertaining to the topics presented in the movie.

“I think it went really well,” Cameron said. “I didn’t think the discussion would go as well as it did. I was nervous that no one else would say anything except for us, but it was awesome.”

The group plans on holding their next screening May 2 and showing a documentary called “Dive!” about dumpster-diving for goods that have been disposed of and the culture that goes along with it.

Reach reporter Tyler Hartung at arts@dailyuw.com.

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